Post-apocalyptic movies are nothing new. Cannibals/zombies, dusty landscapes and badder-than-bad heroes and villians populate most end-of-the-world flicks, and the “Book of Eli” is no exception. What makes “Eli” unique, however, is its unabashedly Christian central theme.
Eli is a (we’re assuming nuclear holocaust) survivor, who has been entrusted with what seems to be the last Bible on Earth. Someone (again, we’re assuming, but it seems to be God,) has told him to take this Bible west, so he has been walking, surviving, and protecting this Bible in a 30-year westbound journey. Eli faces cannibals, vagabonds and a ruthless small-town dictator who holds his people captive to fresh water, but wants to hold them captive with more: if he can use (and misuse) faith, he can have more power and control. What was supposed to just be a rest stop along Eli’s journey becomes a battle of wills between one man who wants to use distort the Bible for power and one who wants to protect it at all costs. Even in Eli’s mistakes (for instance, he is so focused on protecting his Bible that he forgets to care for other people on the way) we can draw parallels for our Christian journey. It leaves great food for thought, while still being an enjoyable night at the movies.
Many post-apocalyptic movies have shown us a vision of a decimated urban landscape, but the “Book of Eli” gives us what it could look like if human life and vegetation were nearly obliterated in a rural setting. The big skies, sweeping desert-like scenes and outpost towns make “Eli” a stylized futuristic Western, which is a fun take on the end-of-the-world genre.
I recommend “Eli” as a fun movie and a great take on faith and culture. It’s a brave outpost of Christian thought in the hostility of Hollywood, but keep in mind that this is not VeggieTales or Focus on the Family fare, and it sticks to the end-of-the-world movie shtick. Plenty of blood, action and gore make the movie inappropriate for kids and occasionally tough to watch, even for grown-ups.
However, I think a mainstream film with such an unabashed message is a hopeful sign that Christianity still has a foothold in the marketplace of ideas. Now we’re just responsible for having post-movie conversations and striving to impact culture in our own ways.